Saturday, July 25, 2009

Reunion as Commencement

Nothing makes you want to flee the country like a high school reunion.

It’s not so much the event as the inescapable arithmetic of 30 years having whizzed by, with so much left to do.

I’ve been to Paris three times, and cruised up the Seine to Normandy, but I still want to inhale a lavender field in Provence. And the sight of a thousand Londoners in a sudden downpour, magically extracting and opening their brollies in unison, is a treasure, but I also dream of navigating a barge down the Thames, popping off for a wander through tiny villages now and then.

In my world view, where distance is a metaphor for success, those of us gathered at the pre-reunion happy hour in Old Bowie were still stuck in the gate – we’d settled in Fairfax (39 miles), Olney (24 miles), Bowie (0 miles). I’ve only gotten as far as Reston (38 miles), so I have no room to talk. And, certainly, there are other measures of lives well-lived – children raised, lives saved, trees planted – but the clock is ticking, and I’m itching to pick random curries from a menu in Thailand, trail after Rick in Petra, and find out what made my brother fall in love with Bhutan.

And after that – after the quick hits – I want to start over and go deeper: I want to sit quietly in some crazy cultural disconnects until I am at peace with them, until I no longer feel the need to chatter and impress and befriend. I just want to get it…what it’s like being someone other than a middle class American who grew up just outside Washington, D.C.

And then, maybe, I’ll come home.

Photo (c) Rick Collier

See more photos of Petra and lots of other really gorgeous stuff (though yes, I do admit to a bit of partiality) at Rick's website.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

House Sitting: Free Travel and Loaner Pets

Oh, you are going to love me! Guaranteed.

In my never-ending search for an inexpensive exit strategy, I came across the other day. It pains me to love it, because I hate the name. Is "carers" even a word??

But I’m willing to overlook the clumsy title for the thrills inside.

House sitters are needed in 308 homes around the world! From Mexico to Australia to Amsterdam to Wales, nice pet-loving people are opening their homes to travelers in exchange for the occasional romp with the family dog or tidying of the litter box.

If you were hot to leave today, for example (and owned a supersonic jet, I guess) you could head over to Brisbane and spend a month looking after Jasper the pug and Harley the kitty cat.

But if you needed a month or so to get your affairs in order first – and you have no serious bad habits (the listing says that. Srsly.), you could housesit for a fortnight outside Athens, caring for dogs, turtles, and a garden. (Presumably, lesser bad habits are totally okay. Like driving around with the turn signal on, or saying “supposably.”)

My cat allergy and general feline aversion disqualify a fair number of prospects for me and my travel buddy/husband Rick, but the chance to have my very own dog for a few weeks or months is a bonus. I daydreamed about cuddling up with the two “friendly Irish Wolfhounds” mentioned in a six-month Northern Ireland housesitting gig. Then I Googled "Irish Wolfhounds".

Yikes. Maybe they'd be willing to cuddle me.

Some listings seem too much like indentured servitude…

Normandy, France: “Come here and let us take advantage of you for six months! Here’s your chance to live in a rural, unfurnished, unrenovated cottage, which you are asked to paint, heat (at your expense), maintain and work the garden, and then clear out.” [Okay, I took some small editorial liberties with this one.]

Some seem too sad…

Blue Mountains, Australia: “Mature woman to sit house and care for a woman with dementia while I take a few days off. My friend is capable of doing most things for herself but she does need to have companionship and structure to her day. The property is a picturesque five acres in the mid mountains and looks out over hills and trees.”

And a few just seem too good to be true...

Hibiscus Coast, New Zealand: "This is a beautiful location, kayaking, bush walks, famous puhoi pub, walking distance to the cheese factory and cafe... this is the life! Five bedroom and two bathrooms. Open fire and 2 acres to romp around. Two labradors to feed and chicken eggs to collect and eat for breakfast... what an awesome Christmas holiday this would be for someone! Fantastic beaches just up the road."

Christmas on the Hibiscus Coast in New Zealand? Walking distance to a cheese factory? Jeez, cut me off a slice of that!

Wolfhound photo by Hanna Woźna – Gil (Source: Wikipedia Commons)